Vandal recruiting 101 — UI uses various techniques to recruit high school, transfer students


There are many aspects in bringing new students to the University of Idaho, but the main processes can be broken into recruitment and decision-making, said Steve Neiheisel,  associate vice president of enrollment management.

Philip Vukelich | Argonaut Campus Visit Office student worker Rylee Beasley changes the welcome whiteboard located in the University of Idaho Student Union Building Monday. The office helps recruit students to UI with campus tours and informational meetings for prospective students.

Philip Vukelich | Argonaut
Campus Visit Office student worker Rylee Beasley changes the welcome whiteboard located in the University of Idaho Student Union Building Monday. The office helps recruit students to UI with campus tours and informational meetings for prospective students.

Neiheisel said recruitment usually happens in the fall and is geared toward high school seniors and transfer students. It is mainly based on marketing UI and
encouraging students to apply. In the spring, UI enrollment management starts the decision-making process, which revolves around trying to get accepted students to choose UI instead of other universities. Neiheisel said the most successful technique is campus visits, which allows students to decide if UI is the right fit for them.
In addition to the normal campus visit — which can be scheduled year-round — UI hosts three on-campus programs that show people the academic and social aspects UI has to offer, Neiheisel said.
Envision Idaho is a program in the fall designed for high school seniors and transfer students, which gives them the opportunity to meet with faculty and explore the campus.
Vandal Fridays are the main event in the spring and is for admitted students. Neiheisel said this is an important feature of the decision-making process as students will come, see the campus and tell their friends back home about their experience.
Also, in late April, UI hosts Idaho Sneak Peek for high school sophomores and juniors.
“The campus visits gives us an opportunity to showcase what we are really good at, which is personalization,” Neiheisel said.
Though campus visits are the most successful way to recruit students to any   university, he said UI utilizes other techniques to encourage undergraduate students to select UI as their choice for higher learning.
“We have a very extensive set of communication campaigns,” Neiheisel said.
Enrollment management has 20 different campaigns they use, all directed toward different types of students, from National Merit Scholars to students interested in a specific college.
Neiheisel said they are not on the leading edge when using social media to recruit students, so deciding which campaign to use for  each student is the university’s way to make the recruitment process more personal.
They also use predictive mapping.
“We are tracking the behavior (of applicants) to see which ones are more likely to enroll,” Neiheisel said.
This way they can work on informed marketing and target the students that are actually going to come to UI, he said.
Another part of recruiting people is the financial aspect, he said.
“We look at how much we (UI) can afford and how much they can afford,” Neiheisel said.
He said enrollment management targets financial-aid based on the likelihood the student will enroll. This is so the university is not investing in people who will end up choosing a different university to attend.
“The financial economic crises adapted the way we recruit,” Neiheisel said.
UI used to mainly target students from Idaho and Washington, and first year freshmen, he said. Now they actively recruiting in California and have also started to target transfer students more.
“We have gone very actively in California with all the problems that California higher education has had,” he said.
Neiheisel said they started recruiting more in California about four years ago, and this year there is a recruiter in the state. UI also has a recruiter based in the Twin Falls area for the first time, but have had recruiters in Boise and Seattle for a while.
Besides Idaho, Washington and California, UI also recruits in Nevada, Alaska, a little bit in Oregon and Montana and also has started to go into Texas and Colorado. He said this means UI offers large scholarships, because out-of-state tuition is roughly $10,000 more than in-state.
Right now, Idaho is UI’s primary recruiting target, and most of the students that come to UI are from Idaho and Washington.
Rachel Main, a sophomore at UI from Boise, said she came to UI because she wanted to go to a real college based on academia, and felt most people from Idaho were the same way.
Though UI is a known university throughout Idaho, the word still has to get to other states, she said.
Neiheisel said because they are targeting people from states that are farther away, they are also
changing when they start recruiting people, and the ways people can learn about UI.
“We have initiated a more aggressive outreach program that centers on high school students in their sophomore and junior year,” Neiheisel said.
This is the first year UI is aggressively recruiting sophomores and juniors, and he said part of the reason is so students from further states have time to plan a campus visit.
He said UI has a great atmosphere, and campus visits gives the students that exposure. If they get students interested in UI early enough, they can plan a trip during the summer. Especially since Moscow is a great place to take a vacation, he said.
However, there are some problems with the current recruiting method.
“We have to tie into summer school better,” Neiheisel said.
He said UI needs to have more campus activity during the summer — meaning more people going to summer school. That way when potential
students come to visit, they see at least some of the campus life.
Since UI just started recruiting high school freshmen and sophomores, Neiheisel said he does
not know if they can expect an increase in students
visiting the campus during the summer.
Enrollment management also has to make sure they have excellent videos that showcase all UI has to offer for those students who cannot make it to a campus visit, Neiheisel said.
This is especially true for when UI recruits potential students on the international scale, he said.
One of the reasons UI tries to have students come from other states and across the world is to increase the diversity on the campus.
“Diversity and internationalization is key to the educational process,” Neiheisel said.
Though the office of enrollment management works on getting students from different countries, they also work with individual colleges.
For instance, the College of Art and Architecture did a recruitment trip to India that was funded by the Office of Enrollment Management, he said.
The International Programs Office works to recruit international students, too.
Neiheisel said the educational aspect is a key driver on international recruiting.
“It is a tremendous educational opportunity to go there, as well as have people from there in your classes,” he said.
Neiheisel said these students also pay more money, which is another main reason they recruit out-of-state and internationally. He said there is a revenue side to it.
He said recruiting is something the whole university partakes in, from each of the individual colleges to the athletic department and Greek system.
In order to keep everyone on the same page, they try to coordinate the colleges’ activities and dates that everything happens.
All of this is key to making sure students want to come to UI, he said.
Sometimes, though, recruitment can be as simple as having a great webpage for a university.
David Street, a sophomore at UI, said though he is out of state, what made him decide to come here was the webpage.
“I had a choice between here and Boise State,” he said. “Once I saw the webpage for here, and the pictures of the campus, I was sold.”
Allison Griffith can be reached at

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